12.12.2019 – Queens
Our traditional boat faced rather gusty conditions as we cruised westward three nautical miles off the coast of Paul do Mar. Here, at the edge of a vast underwater plateau, we often encounter small groups of dolphins feeding on schooling fish that gathered here to prey on the abundant zooplankton. The small group of juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) that darted around our Ribeira Brava today seemed to already have had their breakfast and were happy to interact, much to the joy of our guests.
Our spotter soon called to send us back to the calmer waters in front of Calheta for a surprise sighting. A dispersed group of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) was moving discreetly through these deep waters, each animal resting briefly at the surface in between their deep, foraging dives. The Sperm whales are the largest of all the toothed whales and occur around the archipelago in matrilineal group formations consisting of females and young animals. The animals are thought to remain in lower latitudes, enjoying the warmth of subtropical and tropical waters where they can safely teach their young the culture of the pod and feed on the abundant deep-sea squid. One small calf was spotted swimming clumsily at the surface today, waiting for its peers at the blue interface since it was still too small to plunge to such depths.
As our captain turned the boat North to drive back to the marina, we spotted a young Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) that, like the large female Sperm whales was resting at the surface to recover from a foraging dive. Unlike the queens of the toothed whales, sea turtles tend to live solitary lives as they carefully cruise through the worlds oceans.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins, Sperm whales, Loggerhead turtles